Without a change of behavior, US won't negotiate with Taliban: Pompeo

Trump tweeted Saturday that he'd canceled a secret meeting with Taliban leaders.

September 08, 2019, 11:48 AM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on ABC's "This Week" that without a change in behavior, the U.S. would not continue negotiating with the Taliban, in response to President Donald Trump's canceling a secret meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David.

"We finally reached a point where we were close, we'd made real progress and then the Taliban failed to live up to a series of commitments that they had made and when that happened President Trump said, 'I'm not gonna take that deal, I'm not gonna work with someone who can't deliver on their commitments,'" Pompeo told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. "A deal, an agreement, is just a piece of paper and we have to actually see that change in behavior."

Trump tweeted Saturday evening that he had canceled a secret meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David and called off peace negotiations after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed a U.S. service member on Thursday. The service member, identified Friday as Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz of Morovis, Puerto Rico, was the 16th American service member killed in combat in the country this year.

"If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway," Trump said in his tweet calling off the meeting. "How many more decades are they willing to fight?"

Pompeo said that a few hours before his interview on "This Week," he had been at Dover Air Force Base with the family of the service member who was killed on Thursday. He said the experience was "a reminder that we’ve got to get it right."

Many, including some House Republicans, have criticized the idea of holding peace talks at Camp David in general. House Republican Caucus Chairperson Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted on Sunday, "Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11. No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever."

Pompeo said he appreciated Cheney's view, but "in the end, if you're going to negotiate peace, you often have to deal with some pretty bad actors."

PHOTO: United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivers the year's first Alfred M Landon Lecture at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, September 6, 2019.
United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivers the year's first Alfred M Landon Lecture at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, September 6, 2019.
Mark Reinstein/Getty Images

The U.S. had been negotiating with the Taliban and the Afghan government to reach an agreement that could have resulted in U.S. troops leaving the country after almost 18 years of war.

When Stephanopoulos asked if the efforts of chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad were dead given the president’s tweets, Pompeo said, "he’s coming home for now."

During his appearance on "This Week," Pompeo was also asked about Iran’s recent move further away from the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal on Friday.

"What I predicted all along is if we stayed in the Iran nuclear deal, that we were guaranteeing the ayatollah a pathway towards a nuclear weapons system," Pompeo said, criticizing the Obama administration deal. "It's why we broke away from the deal. It's why we have now made Iran's economy a shambles."

The administration thinks the Iranian economy could shrink by 10 to 12% in the next year, he said, adding that, "It denies their capability to work on their missile program."

Stephanopoulos interjected, "Isn't that what they're doing now?"

Pompeo responded, "The terror attacks around the world increased under the JCPOA, George," referring to the Iranian nuclear deal by its formal acronym. Because of the sanctions, he said, Hezbollah and Shia militias are "struggling for resources."

He also said that Trump wants to negotiate with the Iranian government and meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But whether they will meet is up to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who, Pompeo said, will "make the decision about the direction he wants to take his country."

The Iranian government is set to start work on centrifuges that would enrich uranium faster, according to reports from the state-run news agency on Friday. It's the most recent challenge of the terms of the nuclear deal.

The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the deal last May.

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